There is a heated debate going on in Murfreesboro, TN, about whether to allow the local Islamic Center to build a “52,000-sq. ft. facility that would include a pool, gym, and school in addition to a mosque. The center has had a facility in Murfreesboro since 1997, but says that with over 250 Islamic families in the community, it needs more space.” Although the Rutherford County Commission approved the plan in May, many residents are now protesting, saying they don’t “want them necessarily in my neighborhood.”
On July 14, Tennessee’s Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R), who is a Tea Party-backed candidate for governor, spoke about the planned Islamic Center to a group of Republicans. He said he opposed the project because it might bring “Sharia Law” into the state and wondered whether Islam might be some sort of cult:
Q: We’ve got a threat that’s invading our country from the Muslims. What’s your stand on that?
RAMSEY: Okay, absolutely. Right now, I’ve been up in Rutherford County where this all got started. This is so ironic, because this is one of those questions — I ran for 17 months and nobody ever asked me about this until a month ago — three weeks ago — and what happened is they’re trying to put a mosque into Rutherford County. … Now, I’m all about freedom of religion. I obey the first amendment as much as I obey the second amendment, as much as I obey the tenth amendment, and on and on and on. But you crossed a line when they start trying to bring Sharia Law into the state of Tennessee — into the United States. We live under our Constitution. …
I’ve been trying to learn about Sharia Law, I’ve been trying to learn about what’s going on; it is not good if that’s what’s going on. You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion or is it a nationality, way of life, or cult, whatever you want to call it. But we do protect our religions, but this is something we’re going to have to face.
Watch it (starting at 3:11):
In an e-mail to TPM, Ramsey explained that he is concerned that “far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion. It’s time for American Muslims who love this country to publicly renounce violent jihadism and to drum those who seek to do America harm out of their faith community.” Ramsey may be following the cues of far-right conservatives on the national stage, including Sarah Palin, who called on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” a planned mosque near Ground Zero. Across the country, right-wing activists are protesting the construction of mosques, with some even ominously warning of a “confrontational atmosphere” if plans move forward.
Muslim civil rights and advocacy group CAIR called on Ramsey to “meet with representatives of the Tennessee Muslim community who can offer him balanced and accurate information about Islam.”